A leaked report exposes government's cover-up of repressions against Uyghurs in China

Photos of Uyghur people kept in China's internment camps built to detain Uygurs and other Turkic Muslim groups. Screenshot from the BBC News YouTube Channel. Fair use.

The Chinese Communist Party has been tightly controlling access to information about the ongoing developments in East Turkistan (Xinjiang to China). The region is home to Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minority groups. In response to the 2009 ethnic violence in Urumqi and the 2014 terrorist attack in Kunming, the authorities have introduced repressive policies against these groups, blaming them for the unrest. Foreign journalists and tourists have been restricted from visiting the area. Under these circumstances, the only source of credible and alternative information has been leaked documents. The severity of the authorities’ reaction to leaking incidents illustrates the level of control over access to information about what exactly is taking place in the region.

According to a recently leaked official document from China, sent to the author by an anonymous source, the 2018 Radio Free Asia (RFA) report about the death of an elderly person in Kashgar shocked the entire prefecture and prompted a strong reaction from the local authorities. The leaked document is a critical reflection presented by the county party committee on the leakage of information to RFA. It is dated March 11, 2018.

The first page of the leaked report. Provided to the author by an anonymous source.

It is clear from the leaked report that all the officials in the Yopurgha county, where the incident took place, were alarmed and “decisively” dealt with the “leaking incident.”

The RFA news mentioned in the document came out on March 8, 2018 and revealed that an 80-year-old ethnic Uyghur man died under collapsed walls, which was the result of renovation works carried out by the local government.

The RFA's article in 2018 cited information provided by the local hospital and mentioned that a contributing factor to the death was the absence of his children at home, due to them being taken to China’s re-education camps. In the leaked document, officials addressed the accuracy of RFA’s news by stating:


This death occurred because during the works on demolishing old houses and improving the appearance of the village, they did not follow the requirement of reporting to the village party working committee in advance, resulting in casualties and accidents, which left a pretext for the “three forces” to hype overseas public opinion.

The leaked document sheds light at the Chinese authorities’ comprehensive and intense efforts to cover up repressions against Uyghurs and restrict access to information by international media.

Regret, apology, and punishment

The document was sent to the author by an anonymous source. There are several factors that prove its authenticity. First, its contents match with the RFA’s news. Second, the document came out on March 11, 2018 — three days after the news date. Third, it is written with the specific bureaucratic jargon and format used by party cadres.

The party committee displayed an overwhelming tone of regret and guilt and apologized to the prefectural authorities for allowing the leak of what they perceive as secret information. According to their retelling, the local government held a countywide mobilization meeting of authorities on March 9, 2018 at midnight. They immediately started an investigation on the leaking incident.

Four separate working groups, consisting of 171 people, conducted a two-day operation against all families known to have foreign connections in the county. They examined 328 home phones and 171 office phones in Yekshenbebazar, the town where the news leaked, and analyzed the last 3 months’ call records. All phone numbers that had been used for more than three years were changed to prevent further leaks. All those who talked to RFA reporters and leaked the incident were held accountable “according to the law.” It is unknown how many people were punished for the news leak.

The document goes on to define and explain the “leaking mistakes.” It states:

县委反复强调保密纪律, 要求,并对如何应对境外来电进行了明确,但仍有干部接听 境外电话或陌生电话,被套取涉稳相关信息, 直接反映出我县 一些乡镇、单位、部门落实地委关于保密纪律“两个一律”(对 境外电话或陌生电话一律不接,一律不说)工作不力,思想不 重视,传达学习安排不到位,政策棚架,让境外敌对势力有机 可趁,留下口实,造谣滋事.

The county party committee has repeatedly emphasized the discipline of confidentiality and clarified how to deal with overseas calls, but there are still cadres who answer overseas calls or anonymous calls, and are tricked into divulging information related to stability. Units and departments are not effective in implementing the prefectural committee’s “two never” confidentiality policy [to never accept calls from abroad and never speak], which caused foreign hostile forces to take advantage of it, leave a pretext, spread rumors and cause trouble.

It also contains proof of the Chinese government’s pursuance of the “four breaks” policy against Uyghurs and other minorities. The authorities note:

针对保密意识不强的问题, 县委再次强调, 地区的《关于严格规范落实职业技能中心人员准入和严守保密纪律的通知》要求. 但在落实上还有很大 差距… 断通联工作不彻底。..,一件意外事故, 在短短几个小时的时间内就被境外利用并在网上炒作煽动,说 明“断通联”隐息还很多….. , 给我们抓深抓细抓实“四断”又敲 响了警钟…

In response to the problem of weak confidentiality awareness, the county party committee once again emphasized orders of “keep the rules and regulations of vocational training centers confidential.” … But there is still a big gap … The work of “to break connection” is not completed …, so an accident was used overseas and hyped up on the internet in just a few hours, it has sounded the alarm bell for us to grasp deeply and carefully and grasp the “four breaks.”

The “four breaks” order refers to the policy that dictates: “Break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins.” This order has appeared in other leaked documents from China. It is seen by the international community as one of the strongest pieces of evidence of the systematic targeting of Uyghurs, which some experts classify as genocide.

Through this document, the Yopurgha county officials apologize to the governor's office for not doing enough to break the connection of the Uyghurs and express their determination to correct this “mistake.”

Strict policies to contain information

Since 2017, Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities living in East Turkistan have been subjected to forced detention, intense surveillance, forced labor, and sterilization, among other human rights abuses. More than one million Uyghurs and other minorities have been sent to internment camps. A 2022 UN report suggested that Chinese policies may constitute crimes against humanity.

Here is a YouTube video on the Chinese government's repression of Uyghurs.

Kashgar is a prefecture with a population of 4.5 million. Kashgar’s Yopurgha county has a population of nearly 200,000. The news of the death of this old man was ordinary compared to others published by RFA’s Uyghur service, so much that it was not even translated into English and was not seen by the international public. If this ordinary news prompted such a reaction from the authorities, it is difficult to imagine the consequences when the RFA reported breaking news in the past.

One is left wondering what happened when the news agency reported that 120,000 Uyghurs were detained in a camp in Kashgar, when the location of five camps in Ghulja was discovered for the first time, or when 156 people died in camps in Kucha. There is no doubt that these reports made local officials even more nervous. The question is which officials were affected, how many authorities participated in the follow-up investigations, and how many people in these communities were punished for their involvement.

Whatever the reason for the Yopurgha county party committee's strong reaction to the leaking incident, the point of note for the world community is clear. The contents of this document show an extremely dark side of China, a global superpower candidate with ambitions to bring about a new world order.

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